A major update and refresh, on its way

I’ve just been reviewing the new designs for the Brownbook website, and I’m getting excited. But let me put aside the excitement for a moment, and explain some of the rationale for the changes that are coming.

Way back, when we started Brownbook, we had a simple goal: to bring the concept of crowd-sourced production to a stale industry – that occupied by folks like Yellow Pages, SuperPages, Yell, and others.  Our view was, 7 years ago, that we could create a crowd-sourced local business directory, and, we did it – with bells on.

But, in fact, we did much more than that!

Brownbook now stands at more than 35 million business listings worldwide, it has more than 1.1 million registered users, some 30,000 of whom use the site to actually add and update listings every single month.  Of that 35 million listings, more than 2 million are organically added and updated (that’s about as big as the UK yellow pages, but created by the crowd and fractional cost and with infinitely more efficiency).

What Brownbook has become is the worlds largest Global Business Listing Database, and its still growing fast.

So, time for a refresh and rethink: In the next few weeks we’ll be migrating the platform from its current hosting provider to AWS (Amazon Web Services) to greatly improve performance. That’s performance of the web user interface (which presently is diabolical) but, perhaps more importantly, performance of the Publisher API.  We’ll also be updating the UI to be cleaner, simpler, and generally a bit more elegant – that 7-year old design is certainly showing its age.

We’ve also found some important changes in the way that businesses, and particularly their agencies, use Brownbook.  Small businesses can still add their business listings, claim and verify them, and enrich them with additional text, images, videos, and social links through the website. And that helps them get found on the top search engines through Brownbook’s great SEO. But increasingly we’ve had requests from SEO companies, and local search optimization, listings, and location management agencies to provide an API for adding listings in volume.  In response to that we’ve been road-testing the Brownbook Publisher API for a few months, and its just about to hit prime time.  The Publisher API lets large businesses, publishers, SEOs, agencies, and local search teams add and manage listing in Brownbook with ease, no manual keying and no human error. Its fast, easy to use, and you can be integrated and live within a matter of days – more on this later.

So, watch out for a new look, faster platform, and public API coming soon. If your a publisher and interested in the Publisher API, drop us a line via the Contact Us page on the Brownbook.net site. Or just click here.

Developers use our OpenSearch API to deliver local business search and listings on your website

OpenSearch is a neat technology that lets you perform a search against our database and get the results returned to you as an XML feed.  Visit OpenSearch.org to get the background scoop.

This means you can add your own search to your website and receive a set of results in a feed that you can format to display any way you like, for example to match your website’s look and feel.

You can go even further, say you wanted to restrict your search to just one area, like Colorado, or even more specifically Boulder?  How about to a specific business sector, like for example electricians, or painters?  Well, our OpenSearch interface will allow you to do that too.

It works by firing a specially formatted URL, which contains your specific search terms, at our server.  Our server sends back an atom XML feed that you can chop up to present the data in the format you wish.  You can use entry fields on your webpage, or even a drop down list, to construct the search terms into that URL, so you can make it as specific or as open as you wish for your users.

If you want to start using our OpenSearch API see here for more details, and drop us a line if you need any help.